Forrest Carter’s book was originally titled “Gone to Texas,” but, for marketing purposes, was changed to “The Outlaw Josey Wales,” allowing book sales to be reinvigorated and to capitalize on the successful Clint Eastwood movie.
It doesn’t really matter what the name of the book is, what does matter is that it is a terrific book. Carter has taken a simple man, Josey Wales, and by murdering his family, lit a flame of anger and revenge that appears will never be extinguished. Josey Wales is dark and violent, but as the book unfolds, a complex character is revealed. Unafraid to explore some of the “whys” — not just the “hows”— makes Carter’s book a richer experience.
Wales is a man who loves living and fights hard to continue doing so, but only on his terms. He is remarkably willing to die, but not in the suicidal way we see in so many. Rather, it is because his “code” — his definition of family, friendship and “kin” — is the strongest driving force in his life.
He befriends a young boy/man and risks everything to save him, then does the same for an old Cherokee Indian, Lone Watie, a young Cheyenne woman, Little Moonlight, and toward the end of the book, for two white women, Laura Lee and Grandma Sarah.
“The Outlaw Josey Wales” is short, powerful, well-written and a terrific story. Well worth reading and probably more than once. I don’t do it often, but this is a four-horseshoe read.